You are in: Middle East 
Monday, 11 March, 2002, 17:16 GMT
Saddam's rusting arsenal

Morale among Iraqi troops is questionable
By Jonathan Marcus
BBC Defence Correspondent
More than a decade after its retreat from Kuwait and eventual defeat at the hands of a US-led coalition, Iraq's armed forces are at an even greater relative disadvantage compared with those of the United States.
Iraq's military strength
424,000 active troops
1,900 tanks
2,400 armoured personnel carriers
1,900 wheeled guns
300 combat aircraft
Some short-range rocket systems

Source: Independent US experts
On paper Iraq still retains what seems like an impressive military arsenal.
It has troops, equipment that may include a small number of Scud-type missiles, and a reasonably effective air-defence system that is used regularly against patrolling US and British warplanes.
But this is, in many ways, a wasting and increasingly obsolete arsenal.
Iraq has not been able to modernise its armed forces or to obtain sufficient spare parts to keep all its equipment in service.
So the ball-park figures have to be treated with caution.
Huge undertaking
Training for ground forces has continued, but Iraq's pilots have been greatly restricted in their flying due to the US-imposed northern and southern no-fly zones.

Tanks not destroyed during the Gulf War lack spare parts
Iraq's air defences, while quite capable of shooting down Western aircraft, probably do not have the regional, or certainly the national level of co-ordination that they had before the invasion of Kuwait.
Washington may yet look for other ways to destabilise Saddam's regime.
An invasion would be a huge military undertaking.
US forces would have to be gathered in the region and such a build-up would take time and require local support.
Unequal struggle
But if President George W Bush is determined to engage Iraq militarily, this would be an even more unequal struggle than when his father was in the White House.

Regular soldiers deserted in their thousands during Desert Storm
The war in Afghanistan has shown the extraordinary advances in terms of information-gathering systems and targeting available to the US military.
The morale of Iraqi forces must also be in question.
Some elements - like the armoured units of the Republican Guard might offer stiff resistance - but they would bear the brunt of the US effort.
Large portions of the Iraqi forces simply ran away or surrendered during Operation Desert Storm.
Chemical weapons
And American military pundits believe that next time around - if there is a next time - the Iraqis will have to contend with the military equivalent of a hurricane.
What is still unclear is whether Iraq has a significant chemical or biological weapons capability that it could deploy against an invading force.
Pentagon chiefs have to take such an eventuality into account in their planning.
President Saddam Hussein might regard such weapons as usable in a doomsday scenario should he be on the verge of being forced from office.
But such a step would not change the outcome of such a struggle and would, at a stroke, prove one of America's reasons for engaging Saddam's regime in the first place.

Full coverage

Key stories
US clerics oppose war
Saudi war warning
Iraq polio campaign
'New Europe' hits back

Blair's political troubles
US and UK regroup
Blix tiptoes tightrope

Global voices on Iraq

News in Arabic

Inspectors' report: Point by point

Your views on inspectors' report
See also:

11 Mar 02 | Politics
Cheney and Blair give Iraq warning
09 Mar 02 | Middle East
Iraq attacks US over arms inspections
24 Feb 02 | Middle East
Blair and Bush 'to discuss Iraq action'
23 Feb 02 | Middle East
Saddam scorns Bush 'baby talk'
13 Feb 02 | In Depth
Analysis: 'Axis of evil' capabilities
30 Jan 02 | Americas
Full text: State of the Union address
Internet links:

Iraqi Presidency
US Presidency

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Top Middle East stories now:

US draws up second Iraq resolution
Mid-East peace moves urged
Saudis launch first al-Qaeda trial
Palestinian gas mask appeal dismissed
Kuwait protests over Iraq statement
Polio campaign launched in Iraq
Iran academic sent back to death court
Jerusalem gets ultra-Orthodox mayor
Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

^^ Back to top
News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>> | To BBC World Service>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy

News Front PageAfricaAmericasAsia-PacificEuropeMiddle EastSouth AsiaUKBusinessEntertainmentScience/NatureTechnologyHealthTalking PointCountry ProfilesIn DepthProgrammesBBC SportBBC WeatherDaily E-mail News Ticker Mobile/PDAs Text OnlyFeedback Help Change to UK